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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

26                              THE GAY GENIUS

that to die with some title on his epitaph was all that a man lived
for—if one could not live as a gentleman, he at least hoped to die like
one. And if he happened to die too soon, before securing such honours,
there was always the convenient device of posthumous titles. Particu-
larly in the Sung dynasty, even for the regular officials, one's tide
had little to do with one's actual post. Readers of the tomb inscrip-
tions of the Su family may be misled into thinking that the poet's grand-
father was a counsellor at a court of justice and also an imperial tutor,
and that his father was a tutor to the prince, honours conferred upon
them when Su Tseyu became a vice-premier. As a matter of fact,
neither had ever held such an office in his lifetime. Su now had an
uncle who was an official and two aunts who were married to hus-
bands holding government offices. Both his paternal and maternal
grandfathers held official ranks, one honorary, as we have just pointed
out, and the other actual.

But the most important member of his family who grew up and
studied with him and with whom his life was to be most closely con-
nected was his younger brother, Tseyu. The love and devotion between
these two brothers and their constant loyalty to each other through all
vicissitudes of fortune was a theme song of the poet's entire life. They
comforted each other in sorrow, helped each other in distress, and
dreamed about each other and wrote poems to each other as a form
of communication. Even in China the beautiful love between the two
brothers was something quite unique. Tseyu was of steady, phlegmatic
temperament, with practical sense, and somehow he managed to attain
eventually a higher position than his elder brother. Although they
shared the same political views and followed the same ups and downs
through their entire political careers, Tseyu was the more hard-headed
one and often helped his brother with wise counsel. Perhaps he was
less headstrong; perhaps, being less brilliant and not enjoying such a
singular reputation as his elder brother, he was considered less
dangerous by their political opponents. At this period Su Tungpo
acted not only as a fellow student but also as a teacher to his brother.
He wrote in a poem: "In my youth I knew Tseyu as a child, gentle and
bright. I regarded him not only as a junior fellow student, but also
as a clever pupil." And the younger brother wrote in Su Tungpo's^
tomb inscription: "I had knowledge from you, my brother. You cared
for me as an elder and guided me as a teacher."

At this point it is convenient, to state the various names of the three
Sus. In accordance with ancient custom, a Chinese scholar has several
names. Besides the family name he has a legal personal name (ming)
with which he signs his own signature in all letters and official registra-
tions. He has a courtesy name (tse) by which he should be addressed
orally and in writing by his friends. The usual way of addressing a